by Amara Fehring
Tonight we premiere our production of Trouble in Tumbleweed. It has been 20 years since the original cast performed it under the direction of Nancy Jones. It is an honor to produce and perform it in celebration of her.
I grew up with a squad of fiercely strong, passionate, independent women and Nancy, or N.J. as I knew her, was one of them.
From the time I was born, N.J. was always there beside my mother providing guidance and encouragement. I spent countless hours sitting next to my mom listening to their laughter as they shared inside jokes and historical moments from their lives thus far, observing them form many exquisite event ideas on napkins and then later helping them bring those events to fruition. Those events ranged anywhere from homecoming coronations to hilarious pranks on friends and fellow colleagues to musical performances and dinner theaters. All I can say is, my childhood was an absolute riot.
N.J., to this day, is my most influential and compelling teacher. I was especially lucky to know her as a director, an English teacher, a music teacher, a knee boarding instructor, and as a life coach. No matter what I was doing, she gave me reassurance, support, and a renewed sense of ambition. And in these moments, I never knew her to be anything but brilliant and sincerely kind. As a teacher, she never made anyone feel inferior. Every student in her classroom, every actor in her productions, every curious soul was treated as an equal and given a genuine respect that I have yet to come across in any other teacher.
As a human, N.J. was incredibly influential to me. She was compassionate and sensible, gentle and bold, thoughtful and fearless. I never knew her to shy away from any daring experience. She traveled the world, climbed Grand Teton, skied double black diamonds, drove four-wheelers into Shoshone Lake, busted up drifted in, snow covered driveways in her truck to bail my mom and me out from being snowed in, owned a boat and could air-board, kneeboard, water ski, and wakeboard. And then, she could turn around and sing the finest tenor line in any musical number with her acapella group, create beautiful pieces of art using wool, knit one of the best hats I’ve ever received, direct an entire theater show complete with music and choreography as well as building the sets and props, taught voice lessons and piano lessons, and she could make any piece of literature accessible and captivating. She didn’t shy away from anything that scared her. In fact, if it did scare her, she did it anyway. To me, she is the true definition of badass.
She taught me many things: What profound, earnest friendships are like. What it means be a part of a community and leave it a better place than when you found it. How to make a life by continuing to practice your passions even if they aren’t your day job. And never being afraid to live.